► 100 cars at £2 million each
► 650bhp of NA, V12 power
► Only 980kg, and has a fan!
History is repeating in the best possible way. The phrase, so often used as a sombre warning on the perils of dumbly heading down the same well-trodden road to catastrophe, is this time cause for jubilation. Gordon Murray, he of the rule-stretching and awesomely successful Formula 1 cars and the majestic McLaren F1 road car, is working on a sequel – a carbon-tubbed, turbo-free, V12 three-seater designed from the ground up to weigh next to nothing and deliver the purest, most engaging driving experience since his last, spectacular crack at the same high-performance puzzle.
'It's always annoyed me that no one has done an F1 since the F1,' says Murray, aware that the sentiment could be construed as a lack of modesty. 'I know it sounds big-headed but nobody's done a pure, lightweight, focused driver's car since – the T.50 will be better in every way.'
The F1, you'll recall, married Murray's flair for original engineering and packaging with McLaren's composites expertise and BMW's naturally-aspirated V12. It seated three people and, for all its searing speed, was refined like a GT, with luggage and air-con. It wasn't conceived as a track car – but won the Le Mans 24 Hours outright nonetheless.
In broad terms, the T.50 shares much with the F1. A carbonfibre tub encloses the three-man cockpit. Like every single component on the T.50, the chassis is bespoke and optimised to the car – the key to hitting Murray's target weight of just 980kg. How, when a McLaren 600LT weighs more than 1200kg? 'Most cars suffer from committee decisions and carry-over parts. You can't get a car under 1000kg unless you start with a clean sheet of paper. There isn't a single carry-over component on the T.50.'
The T.50 is neither turbo nor hybrid (there's a 48-volt generator, powering the T.50's 400mm fan – the key to its Brabham BT46B-inspired aero. Instead it uses a new V12 from Cosworth (supplier of the far bigger V12 for Aston's Valkyrie) capable of revving beyond 12,000rpm. 'It'll be the lightest V12 ever built – 60kg lighter than the F1's BMW engine – as well as the highest revving,' says Murray.
All 100 T.50s will be built in 2022. 'Given the costs, this could be the last great analogue supercar,' muses Murray. 'I've driven all the latest supercars. They're fantastic, but they don't involve you in any way, shape or form. Get back into an F1 and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. T.50 will do the same.'
Gordon Murray: a purist and a genius
A trained mechanical engineer, it was in F1 – first with Brabham, then McLaren – that Murray's problem-solving virtuosity gained global recognition. He founded Gordon Murray Design in 2007. The T.50 will be Gordon Murray Automotive's first car.
Number one fan
The T.50 will use a fan at the rear of the engine bay, partly to draw heat out but mainly to manage the car's complex aero. 'The fan is constantly active, interacting with the series of flaps in the underfloor – the upper body does nothing on the aero side, apart from the airbrake. The fan gives us control over drag, downforce and the centre of pressure. We can vary all three depending on what's required at that moment.'
Feel with assistance
'We're developing a new power-assisted steering system. I haven't driven a car with electric power-steering that I like yet. I have an Alpine A110 and it's okay. McLaren have stuck to hydraulics, and it's one of the better systems, but it's not as nice as manual steering. But I recognise people need assistance. So we're developing a completely new assisted steering system that will give you the same kind of feel as the F1's.'
Yep, manual gearbox
'I wondered if a manual was a step too far, and that perhaps a sequential manual might be the way to go – DCT 'boxes are such a non-event – but in the last 15 months I've been lobbied hard by owners to do a manual [as in the F1, above]. I was under pressure from the investors to do 300 cars for £800k [the T.50 will cost £2.3m before taxes] but I wanted to get to know each owner, and what they want from the car – as I was able to do with the McLaren F1.'
'A lot of people are current McLaren F1 [above] owners. Then we're getting a bunch of younger people for whom the F1 was their poster car – this is their chance to buy something like an F1 now that they're £20m. And then there's the third group, my age, who are desperate for another analogue supercar they can get involved with.'